It was a hot and sticky day for the players in the low to mid 90’s, although there was the occasional cloud, and of course the weather certainly wasn’t as extreme as the previous week.
The team exited the locker room for a 2:30 practice in front of their loyal fans.
There were stands for merchandise, games for children, as well as concessions; however, after driving three hours to Rams park and having no food in my stomach at the time, there were only two things on my mind—the White Castle that I’d be devouring after the practice, and the St. Louis Rams.
The first thing the team worked on was special teams.
Donnie Avery was sidelined with injuries (although he was still present with the team), so he did not take any of the returns, but Danny Amendola, Mardy Gilyard, Jonathan Nelson and Austin Pettis all fielded kicks.
Amendola looked as explosive as ever in the return game. The Rams would surely love to give him some rest so that he can focus on being a receiver, but the electric element that he brings to special teams may be too tempting to avoid.
After the initial work with special teams, the Rams then broke into their respective groups divided up by position.
The offensive line was sporting the obvious front five, which featured Rodger Saffold (LT), Jacob Bell (LG), Jason Brown (OC), Harvey Dahl (RG) and Jason Smith (RT).
Sam Bradford is obviously the starter, followed by A.J. Feeley. However, Feeley looked erratic and extremely inaccurate throughout the entire practice.
The third-string quarterback was Thad Lewis, followed by rookie Taylor Potts. Neither stood out as a front-runner, but the preseason games will ultimately determine that more than anything.
In the running back drills, they took turns in this order: Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams, Jerious Norwood and Keith Toston.
Any reps that the remaining running backs had were very scarce if there were any, they were primarily used as dummies against the other backs, but undrafted rookie Eddie Wide was shown some favoritism, so the coaches obviously want to see what he’s capable of.
In the first wide receiver drill, they went out for passes one at a time in a particular order, which might indicate the overall depth chart of the position. That order was as follows: Brandon Gibson, Mike Sims-Walker, Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, Mardy Gilyard, Austin Pettis.
Avery and rookie Greg Salas did not participate due to injury, which is something to keep in mind. And as for the backup receivers, they did not execute drills in a consistent fashion, which made it hard to determine any further depth.
The 2011 second-round pick Lance Kendricks is the best athlete of the group, second to none. He’s something special.
Outside of Kendricks, Billy Bajema seemed to be the clear front-runner as the second best tight end. It was actually disheartening that Mike Hoomanawanui was nowhere to be found, especially considering the potential he displayed last season.
Fendi Onobun still has a ways to go, but he still is able to make an impressive play on occasion.
When observing the defensive backs I noticed something very peculiar.
I was watching from a distance, so my vision was blurry, but during my first glance at the new safety Quintin Mikell it appeared as though he was completely bald at the top of his head, but had hair on the sides.
“Great”, I thought. Our new safety has the hair of a 50-year-old man.
But after a better look I realized it was merely a black headband that covered the sides of his head, while he was bald beneath it.
In fact, he looked spry as the starting safety alongside Craig Dahl, who was starting at the other spot.
The starting corners are Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher, although the newly acquired 36-year-old Al Harris received a decent share of reps with the first team.
You would never be able to guess that Harris is that old. He looked energetic on the field and he seemed to be enjoying himself.
If James Laurinaitis had it his way, he would probably never be on the sidelines.
During the individual linebacker drills, the starting three (Laurinaitis, Byran Kehl, Na’il Diggs) would rarely step aside for the other linebackers to get involved.
You have to admire that kind of dedication, but at the same time the team didn’t bring in Brady Poppinga and Zac Diles to sit on the bench.
However, the rest of the linebackers had plenty of reps when the team regrouped for 11-on-11.
This group managed to stay hidden for a good portion of the practice, but during the little face time the crowd had with the group, it was clear that Chris Long is the big shot.
Something that’s a little concerning is seeing first-round pick Robert Quinn with the second team, but since the Rams have James Hall there’s no reason to rush him into action immediately.
However, despite Quinn playing with the second group, he is an absolute monster in person. Surely the Rams offensive line is glad that he’s on their team.
The defensive tackles are hard to gauge from the stands, but I did notice Justin Bannan sprinting onto the field after apparently forgetting that he was on the field-goal blocking team.
-Safety Quintin Mikell shut down receiver Billy Bajema on a very physical play. It’s good to see that Mikell is capable of knocking around a tight end.
-Tight end Lance Kendricks caught a pass out of the flat, turned upfield and completely burned safety Craig Dahl for what would’ve been either a touchdown or a big gain if it were an actual game.
-Safety Darian Stewart collided with rookie tight end Schuylar Oordt for an intense pass breakup. It’s good to see a lot a physicality out of the secondary.
-Rookie wide receiver Austin Pettis had a nice catch against linebacker Na’il Diggs in a one-on-one drill. He made the catch despite taking a bit of abuse from Diggs.
-Rookie tight end Ben Guidugli made a nice jumping catch downfield against safety Darian Stewart. Guidugli landed just shy on the end-zone.
-Rookie safety Jonathan Nelson was burned on a couple of plays, including a touchdown while covering rookie tight end Demarco Cosby.
-Wide receiver Brandon Gibson laid down a physical block against corner Justin Kings, which allowed receiver and ball carrier Austin Pettis to score during a drill.
-There was a short scuffle on the field that involved several violent shoves before the situation was defused. One of the culprits was wide receiver Greg Matthews, but I was not able to identify the other player involved.
-Sam Bradford was on key most of the practice, but during the two minute drill he was unable to spot a wide open Danny Amendola downfield. He instead forced the ball to Brandon Gibson, resulting in an incomplete pass.
-At the end of practice the team worked on special teams once again, but wide receiver Mardy Gilyard was injured during a kick return drill. He was escorted to the locker room by a trainer and never returned.